10 Reasons to Count on DRW in 2021
2020 has challenged our community like no other year in recent history. The deep impact of COVID-19 has called on all of us to care for one another. DRW has worked tirelessly again and again as the pandemic impacts every aspect of life for people with disabilities.
Our advocacy toolbox is large. Through legal services, public policy work, Rooted in Rights media advocacy, Know Your Rights and self-advocacy trainings and more, we elevate the most urgent issues impacting the disability community today, and we change systems to create a better future.
We’ve picked 10 advocacy campaigns from this year to look back on as we look ahead to the next. We ask you today if we can count on you to help us continue this work into the new year. With your support, we’ll start 2021 side by side, fighting together to care for our community.
1) Equal access to healthcare, working with people with disabilities, people of color, and seniors to stop discriminatory healthcare rationing and obtain access to life saving treatment.
2) Community-based living and community choice, keeping people with disabilities out of institutions, prisons and jails, ending the practice of sending Washington’s foster youth to live in out-of-state institutions, and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities living in these congregate settings.
3) Equitable education, advocating with partners so that students with disabilities are not left at home without support from Individualized Education Plans while schools are closed.
4) An end to police and vigilante violence, partnering with community members to call for the Spokane Sheriff department to cancel “Killogy” training and asking for Spokane-area leaders to denounce armed vigilantes on the streets claiming to aid law enforcement and business owners during peaceful anti-racist demonstrations. Click here to read an Op-Ed written by community members and published by the Spokesman-Review.
5) Accessible digital spaces, providing the tools for disabled people to continue to work, socialize and more as virtual communications become the new normal.
6) Accessible streets, sidewalks and transit in Seattle through safer crosswalks and intersections, clearing scooters and bike shares from blocking accessible pathways, clearing snow and ice, and repairing broken elevators and escalators at transit stations through our new Disability Mobility Initiative.
7) The right to vote, improving voter access and information, creating a five-part video series about barriers to voting, reaching eligible voters in King County jails, and hosting an accessible forum with candidates for Seattle City Council and several statewide elected positions.
9) To tell our own stories training disabled storytellers on how to create accessible, effective media, and providing a platform through Rooted in Rights to share videos and blog articles about our lives and the impact of COVID-19.
10) Nothing About Us Without Us, fighting for disabled people to lead advocacy efforts to change the issues that impact us, and providing information and trainings on disability rights, voting rights, storytelling, and how to advocate and navigate the legislative process.
In the face of inequity and discrimination, you can count on DRW. We’ll continue to pursue justice, dignity, equality, and self-determination for people with disabilities through 2021 and far into the future. Will you join us?
Jordan Landry, a blind US military veteran, has spent 21 months in jail at the King County Correctional Facility with no conviction, awaiting trial. For four months, Jordan was placed in solitary confinement in order to protect him from other inmates.
“I had no communication with other inmates. I was locked in a room 23 hours a day, sometimes 24 with no writing, no art supplies, no reading materials because I couldn’t read, and I couldn’t see anything.” Jordan contacted DRW. “They went to work for me right away. I told them the issues that I was having and within six days all of those issues were addressed.” DRW Attorney, Ethan helped Jordan access the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library.
Then Jordan, who was awaiting trial and had never been convicted of a felony, met DRW’s Public Policy Director, Darya, who explained that people in jail are eligible to vote as long they are not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections and meet other eligibility criteria. “I never knew that I could vote while I was in jail.”
DRW helped Jordan update his voter registration and facilitated access to an audio Voters Pamphlet through the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library. “After my first meeting with DRW, Ethan and Darya asked if I would be interested in voting on an AVU [Accessible Voting Unit] that is accessible to someone with my disabilities. Not only can I vote, but I can vote with the same dignity and privacy that any other citizen would have. It is important for people with disabilities to have access to vote because your vote is your voice. My vote counted just as much as the vote of the governor of the state.”
Jordan’s work had only begun. He now advocates for voting rights in jail.
Darya shares, “Jordan is passing the baton. He is a strong advocate within the jail to address how to vote. He experiences the barriers first-hand and has become a critical partner for DRW in developing solutions.” Even while he remains in jail, Jordan now serves as a member of the King County Elections Disability Advisory Committee.
Jordan emphasizes, “I did not take my privilege lightly. I rallied people in jail to vote. DRW was behind me all the way and pushing to get the word out to inmates that they can vote. In jail, you have so many privileges taken away. Voting gives you hope that you can still be a part of society, you can still participate and have your voice heard, hope that you still matter.”
Jordan’s story is one of many as DRW has focused on systemic changes to improve access to voting. People in King County jails now have more information about how to vote. DRW is continuing to improve access to voting in jail across Washington.
DRW works to elevate issues important to people with disabilities and to facilitate conversations with candidates that can inform our vote. DRW hosted two candidate forums in 2019 and 2020, in partnership with a coalition of disability advocacy organizations, for candidates for Seattle City Council and statewide positions
Join Jordan, Ethan, Darya, and DRW to continue the fight for voting rights for people with disabilities.
The full series can be viewed here.
Earlier this year, Nate and his family worked with DRW to share his story about accessing educational services during COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, Nate enjoyed attending high school with his friends and girlfriend. His school provided him a well-rounded education with speech therapy, job skills, and structure. When Washington schools closed in March due to the pandemic, Nate and more than a hundred thousand disabled students across the state were left at home without the support required by their Individual Education Plans, disproportionately impacting their education and futures.
Nate and his mom Rachel reached out to DRW for help, and they learned that they were not alone. Staff Attorney Andrea Kadlec worked with Nate, Rachel and dozens of additional families to file Citizens Complaints with the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
In its decision, OSPI confirmed that a pandemic does not negate Nate’s right to a free and appropriate education. The school district is required to work with Nate and his family to create a plan that meets his needs during COVID-19.
Nate is excited to share that he is once again taking the bus to attend school in-person two days a week. He has had several Zoom movie dates with his girlfriend, Kiera, and he is back to developing the skills he’ll need for a job he has lined up for Summer 2021 at Vasa Park.
DRW Attorney Andrea Kadlec knows that there is still much work ahead to ensure educational equity for students with disabilities during and after COVID-19: “ “We’re just getting the tip of the iceberg, really, and there’s a lot of work left to be done. We are staying focused and doing the work.”
Educational decisions made in response to COVID-19 are not impacting us equally. Join Nate, Rachel, Andrea and DRW to continue our fight for equity. Your donation will power the work ahead to ensure Washington schools do not leave behind students with disabilities.
To hear more from Nate and Rachel, watch our video.